Born to run

Youngsters earn shot at USATF national championships

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They might be too young to understand the scope of their achievement but 8-year-old cousins Shimar Williams and Aaron Hicks are understandably excited about where it’s about to take them.

Both Shimar and Aaron qualified for the USA Track and Field Hershey National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships in Sacramento, California, in late July. For Aaron, the son of Sonya and Stanley Hicks Sr., it will be his second straight trip to nationals. He earned that by finishing second in the 8-Under Boys 400-meter dash last week at the USATF Region 3 Championship meet in Landover, Maryland. Shimar, the son of Shiquita and Maurice Williams Jr., punched his ticket to California with a third-place finish in the 8U Boys 200 dash.

“I feel good getting ready to go back to nationals,” Aaron said with a big grin. “I feel happy!”

And being able to go with his cousin?

“I’m really, really happy!” he assured.

Both boys run for the Wilson Track Club, which is sponsored by Wilson Parks and Recreation Department. It truly is a family affair as Shimar’s grandfather, Maurice Williams Sr., has been the Wilson coach since 2001, part of a track-and-field coaching career of more than three decades. Shimar’s father, Maurice Jr., and Aaron’s mother, Sonya, also help coach the WTC club, along with Chris Hines, Zoe Hines and Charles Anderson.

Aaron comes from a family of track athletes. His mother, who is Maurice Sr.’s niece, and father were high school standouts. Older brother Stanley earned All-Big South Conference acclaim as a sprinter at Campbell University and older sister Amber was a two-time state champion at Greenfield School.

But all that history means little to the two cousins, who didn’t know what to make of the information that they were two of the youngest qualifiers for the national championship meet in Wilson history. They are, however, excited to be able to travel to California for the first time in their young lives. Aaron, who is a rising third grader at New Hope Elementary, said, “I’m looking forward to the hotel that we’re going to stay in.”

Shimar, who will be in third grade at Vinson-Bynum Elementary, had a slightly different expectation of the upcoming trip.

“I’m looking forward to the Apple Store!” he assured.

Track competes with other sports such as basketball, baseball and football for the boys’ attention.

“Yeah, I do sports!” Aaron said confidently. “I do basketball, I do kickball and I do football. And baseball. And track!”

Aaron qualified for the national meet last year in Greensboro in the 8U Boys 800 run. However, he placed fifth in the event at the North Carolina USATF Junior Olympic Championships in Durham in June and didn’t expect to run that event in Landover. He said that he preferred running the 400 over the 800. 

“Because the 800’s two laps around,” explained Shimar insightfully.

Aaron ran the 400 in a personal-record time of 1 minute, 13.97 seconds in Landover. He finished second in the prelims and that mark stood as storms washed out the finals Monday.

Shimar didn’t make it to the Junior Olympic regional last year. He attributed harder training to his ascension.

“I ran [in front of] a parachute to make me get faster,” he explained.

Shimar didn’t set a PR with his time of 31.61 seconds that was good for third in the 200 dash. His best time, 30.35, came in the Jim Law Invitational in mid-June but his regional pace was better than his North Carolina Junior Olympic performance. Shimar missed qualifying for the regional in the 100.

But that’s OK because he likes running the 200 better, he said.

“Because when you come around the curve and you see that person, you can go fast,” he said. “And the curve, that’s what I like!”

Maurice Williams said that his grandson has a competitive streak in him.

“He gets it from his dad,” the veteran coach said. “When he gets serious about it, you’ll see a bigger difference — in both of them, really.”

While they might giggle and play and dream of things other than track, both Shimar and Aaron work hard at practice and focus on the job at hand.

“Run your heart out on the track,” Aaron said. “Just run your heart out and you will be fine!”